Like most Januaries, January 2016, up until now, has been very productive and brimming with hope and excitement of new opportunities. I began writing my goals for the new year a couple days after New Year’s Day. And so far I’m able to go to bed content and hopeful about the next day.
My reading list for 2016 is rather ambitious. For the past few months I’ve been reading more nonfiction than fiction, and I’ve been enjoying it very much. I’ve decided to make the most of this current interest and my reading list is largely comprised of nonfictional books. I’m probably not going to review each book that I read since many are very textbook-ish (I tend to read on subjects like Psychology, History, and Christianity most often). But there are a couple books that I am looking forward to sharing. One of these is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
I understand that nonfiction requires more discipline than fiction, and I’m really glad for this unexpected surge of curiosity for fact. But I don’t ever want to stop reading books that are fiction, especially those written specifically for entertainment. In fact, I’m making sure that I read fictional books on a regular basis by beginning a book club (since I couldn’t find one near where I live).
I think reading both nonfiction and fiction are equally rewarding. Books based on fact prime the mind to absorb knowledge, think logically, while learning to appreciate the beauty and complexities of the world we live in. Nonfictional books can stand on their own, regardless of whether they are well written or not, if they are comprehensive, accurate, and informational.
Fiction, on the other hand, requires both the writer and the reader to develop the capacity to think tangentially enough to get absorbed in a story that is, sometimes clearly, not real. Of course, good fiction is largely dependent on the author’s ability to tell the made up story well. And if the story is told well, it’s the perfect place to retreat to after an exhausting or dull day. It flexes the imagination in extraordinary ways that can’t be matched by any special effects watched on TV. I also feel that it helps cultivate an appreciation for aesthetic beauty.
I have to say that all stories, whether true or made up, are very interesting when told well. And sometimes our environment helps enhance the story, or the other way round. I remember when we visited Kashmir I was reading The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. As you probably know, Kashmir is located in a valley and is surrounded by mountains. The first evening we were there we visited one of the Mughal gardens at dusk and the mountains took on a menacing glow in shades of dark blue. It helped fuel my imagination as I recalled the dwarves on their long journey.
Last year my parents and grandmother visited Palestine and Egypt. When they got back from their trip my mother told me that she’d carried her Bible along with her and read it while they visited the places that recorded the stories in the Bible. Mount Sinai is supposed to be very tall and difficult to climb. It makes sense that Moses would stay up there for 40 days before he decided to come down again. And the naturally formed caves are like proper shelters! It’s easy to imagine that people would find place to rest for the night easily, and that shepherds would camp out in the evenings. There are so many different kinds of dates, and each so delicious; one in particular tastes like halva. The phrase ‘cake of dates’ is suddenly reasonable.
I hope 2016 is the year I learn to relish equally books that are nonfiction and books that are fiction.
Happy new year everyone! I’m sure everyone has been as busy as I have been, filling up planners, organizers, journals, and making mental notes to live every day fully and do the best possible to have a remarkable 2016. Here’s to hoping that the year ahead brings with it opportunities to make our personal stories thrilling and easy to embellish for a satisfying read in retrospect.